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Jillian Michaels on Motherhood and 'The Biggest Loser': We Went Back to the Basics
This season of The Biggest Loser (Mondays on NBC) featured two new must-watch elements: the return of Jillian Michaels and the addition of teenage contestants (ages 13 to 16).
Michaels, 38, spoke to PARADE about the changes to the show, why she decided to return after a two-year hiatus, and the changes in her personal life (she and her partner Heidi Rhoades have two children) that have affected her outlook on health and fitness.
On why she came back.
"There are a lot of reasons. Obviously the show is dealing with kids and having this huge platform to get the message and information out is invaluable. Everyday fans of the show were like, 'please come back to Loser, please come back to Loser.' If I can find the time to do the things I want to do personally like run my business, be a mom, and still please the fans [the I will]. I went to see Madonna in concert and she played all this music. And you're like, 'this is great, but can you play "Holiday" now?' Biggest Loser is kind of my "Holiday." It's something you can't ignore."
On her first reaction to adding teens to the show.
"At first I said, 'No!' It was too delicate and too easy to get it wrong and it's so so, risky. We have this new executive producer Lisa Hennessy and she's fantastic. She's what the show needed and in my opinion has always needed. She sat down with me and said, 'Look, we're going to get this right, we're talking to the top experts in the country from pediatricians to child psychologists. We're not weighing them in, not eliminating them, they'll visit the ranch but not stay on the ranch. She said if Biggest Loser didn't do it, it would get critiqued for not taking a stand and trying to make a difference with all the exposure we do have available. I trusted that everyone was in the right head space about this and if we moved forward with the most positive intentions possible, and if we tread very lightly, I think we can make a difference and help get a message out."
On how else the kids will be treated differently.
"With kids it's really challenging because when you look at at an adult, they have complete control. Kids do not. They're 13 and can't get in the car and do grocery shopping or drive themselves to soccer practice. They don't have the ability to take responsibility or the maturity to know what the right decisions are and implement them. For kids, it's about making fitness and health fun, making it social, and building self-esteem."
How she hopes the show will negate childhood obesity.
"I hope its a wake-up call to parents that they need to lead by example. The parents of our kids are not healthy themselves. It's like, 'Hey you. Get your butt off the couch and start being a good example for your kids.' And for kids, I hope that they're motivated and inspired by our kids. Join the softball team or the cheerleading team or join crew. It's about providing them with the tools like a workout or health foods and common sense."
How the kids surprised her.
"I was surprised by how courageous the kids were. I would have been uncomfortable and nervous and overwhelmed. They were like, 'all right let's do this thing.' Two of them attacked it and one of them struggled but that's normal and what I expected to happen. But the fact that they put themselves out there and for the most part embracing the process, that's surprising to me. I thought there would be a lot more resistance and fear. It was great but surprising."
How motherhood has changed her approach to health and fitness.
"When it comes to kids, it's just not hard to get them healthy. I don't find it hard and don't understand why people find it hard. People would tell me, 'just wait until you're a parent.' Here is what is hard: getting time for yourself, that's hard. But my kids, I don't find it hard at all. I am as busy. I would say I am as busy as anyone reading this and I still find a way. People say I have so much help but that's not true. On Sunday, we will make their food and we feed it to them. I get the quinoa pasta, grass-fed beef, and we have it all week. It's not McDonald's and it's not that hard. It requires educating yourself a little bit. And play with your kids! My daughter didn't grow up with TV. Sometimes she'll watch YouTube on the iPad but for the most part she's playing. She's running around the house or wrestling with me. Limit their screen time, physically play with then, engage them in fun physical activities, take them with you to walk the dog, make some time two nights a week to prepare their food for the week. I can honestly say, after two kids now and working constantly, it's not that hard. Making time for you, yes, that's hard."
What else fans can expect will be different this season.
"Different is tough because at the show's core, I thought it needed to get back to what it was at. It's basis was great stories, great struggle, great triumph. To be honest, I would tell you it really went back to basics [this season]. It's not about game play, it's not about twists and turns. Its really about a group of people who are having a really hard time and who are forced to get their stuff together. It's all of the drama and hardship and triumphs and tears that go along with that."
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